OSHA Publishes New ‘Hazard Communication Standard: Labels and Pictograms’ Brief



OSHA’s been busy releasing new documents about Hazard Communication 2012, the newly revised Hazard Communication Standard that has been “aligned” with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS).

In a previous post, we discussed a recently published Fact Sheet that focuses on an employer’s requirements to train workers about certain elements of the new regulation before December 1, 2013. In this post, we’ll discuss highlights of the new OSHA Brief titled Hazard Communication Standard: Labels and Pictograms.

Our analysis? There’s one significant change that everyone should know about and then some interesting stuff that we’ve called out. We’ll address them in order. First, the change, which we’ll cover in detail. And second, we’ll point out some of the interesting stuff (which you may already know about) and let you know where to find it in the Brief if you want to read more.

OSHA’s New GHS Pictograms and Diamond-Shaped DOT Labels

People have been asking us questions for some time now if the labeling systems required by OSHA’s Hazard Communication 2012 and the Department of Transportation (DOT) will coexist. The short answer is–yes, and that will continue to be true.

And so the next obvious question is, how will they coexist? And that’s where it gets interesting. Because OSHA’s new brief mentions their plans to change the way the two labels appear when they are both on the same container.

How HazCom 2012 Is Written Now

When a chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer prepares a chemical container for shipping, the chemical container must have a HazCom 2012/GHS-compliant “shipping label” that includes any necessary GHS pictograms. In addition, DOT transport labels must be placed on the “outside” container when the chemicals are being shipped. For example, a DOT label would be placed on the outside of a box, and inside the box would be a number of chemical containers, each with its own GHS-compliant label. That part won’t change.

But in some cases, there are no separate “inside” and “outside” containers during shipping. That’s true, for example, when large chemical totes or 55-gallon drums are being transported. And in those cases, the HazCom 2012 Regulation currently states in Appendix c.2.3.3 that:

“Where a pictogram required by the Department of Transportation under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations appears on a shipped container, the pictogram specified in C.4 for the same hazard shall not appear.”

Note the word “not,” which I bolded to emphasize.

How OSHA Plans to Change HazCom 2012

But that bold “not” is what is going to change. The new Brief from OSHA explains that OSHA intends to reverse that last part. Here’s what OSHA is saying now (pay special attention to the bolded font below):

“It is important to note that the OSHA pictograms do not replace the diamond-shaped labels that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires for the transport of chemicals, including chemical drums, chemical totes, tanks, or other containers. Those labels must be on the external part of a shipped container and must meet the DOT requirements set forth in 49 CFR 172, Subpart E. If a label has a DOT transport pictogram, Appendix c.2.3.3 states that the corresponding HCS pictogram shall not appear. However, DOT does not view the HCS pictogram as a conflict and for some international trade both pictograms may need to be present on the label. Therefore, OSHA intends to revise C.2.3.3. In the meantime, the agency will allow both DOT and HCS pictograms for the same hazard on a label.

So, that’s a pretty big change.


Other Points of Interest in the Labels and Pictograms Brief

In addition to the change we just explained, the Brief does include some other interesting points. We’ve listed a few that caught our eyes below:

Shortening Precaution Statements to Make Them More Specific
See the section titled “Precautionary Statements” in the second column of page 2 for OSHA’s explanation of this.

Combining Precaution Statements to Save Space and Improve Readability
This is still in the section titled “Precautionary Statements,” but look in the first column of page 3.

Eliminating Precautionary Statement if it is Inappropriate
Still in the “Precautionary Statements” section, but in the second column on page 3.

Adding Pictograms and Other Information to the Supplementary Information Part of a Label
See the “Supplementary Information” section in the second column of page 3.

Employer Responsibilities and Workplace Labels
See the two corresponding sections on pages 4 and 5. There’s nothing new or shocking here, but it won’t hurt to review.

Black Borders on Pictograms on Workplace Labels
On workplace labels, employers can use HCS/GHS pictograms with a black diamond-shaped border instead of the standard red border. See the first column on page 5 for this (it’s within the Workplace Labels section of the Brief).


For more information, check out our online Hazard Communication training course.

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